A day after the trade was done, but before Kevin Garnett had rejoined the Timberwolves, guard Ricky Rubio joked about the “KG effect” after Minnesota had beaten Phoenix on Friday night.
Just wait for the real thing.
Garnett, who will practice with the Wolves for the first time Tuesday, will walk into Target Center with a slew of expectations that have very little to do with him scoring baskets or grabbing rebounds. Folks expect him to inject intensity up and down the roster, tighten up the locker room culture and provide a focused role model for the young players.
But there are at least a couple of those youngsters who might feel the impact of Garnett’s presence the most: Anthony Bennett and Adreian Payne.
Bennett is with his second team in his second season. He is talented, but has not yet learned how to produce consistently. Payne, recently acquired in a trade with Atlanta, is a long, lean rookie who got his first extended taste of NBA action in Friday’s victory.
Like Garnett, Bennett and Payne are power forwards. As such, Garnett’s impact will be up close and personal.
“Those two, they’ll be able to take more on the court from KG,” Wolves assistant Ryan Saunders said. “The things he does, the little nuances he knows, they’ll see the ultimate professional.”
The decision to trade Thaddeus Young to Brooklyn for Garnett was done for a lot of reasons. One of them was to give coach Flip Saunders a weeks-long look at both Bennett and Payne so decisions can be made on their futures with the team.
“Those two guys need to play, to see how they develop,” Saunders said.
Bennett, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft, has shown flashes of talent. But he has struggled to find his role on the team. By his own admission, intensity has been an issue, especially when he wasn’t getting much playing time.
“I feel so, yes,” said Bennett, 21. “I feel like, a few times, I felt this season I let my emotion get the best of me. That is something I have to take care of, put behind me.”
What better mentor than Garnett to help him?
“The main thing is seeing how he approaches the game,” said Wolves assistant Sam Mitchell, who as a veteran player helped a young Kevin Garnett in the same way. “He’s going to have more of an interest in those guys, because they play the same position.”
To Mitchell, young Wolves players need help learning everything from getting ready for a game to getting the most out of practice.
“Am I really trying to get better today?” Mitchell said. “Young guys, a lot of them, they’re just trying to get through practice. It’s another day on the schedule. But a veteran says, ‘I need to work on this today, so I’ll focus on that aspect of practice and get better.’ ”
You can bet Bennett and Payne will get that message starting Tuesday.
“That’s what everybody is saying,” said Bennett, whose on-court tutelage might have to wait a week or two. Bennett injured his right ankle Friday night and will miss at least two weeks.
“He just goes hard all the time,” he said of Garnett. “That should definitely rub off.”
Positives on Payne
Payne, who turned 24 Thursday, played a total of 19-plus minutes over three games with the Hawks. In his Wolves debut, he played 13½. He had four rebounds, two blocks and five fouls against the Suns, displaying an aggressive style Saunders liked.
The Wolves like Payne’s ability to defend the pick-and-roll and defend the basket. Long and lean, he could develop into an effective stretch forward. Now he will have the chance to learn from one of the best; Garnett was his favorite player growing up.
“I think It’s going to mean a lot being able to have somebody like that,” Payne said. “A vet, somebody with a lot of experience who has done the things I want to do.”